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Auditor to Review Cuyahoga County Authority to Disregard Secretary of State Directive
Columbus - Following public reports of verbal sparring among state and local elections officials during the weekend, Auditor of State Dave Yost expressed concern Monday about protecting both the integrity of elections and the public’s faith in the electoral process.
Under Ohio law, the Auditor of State is charged with ensuring that governmental expenditures are for a “proper public purpose,” both with regard to the general authority of the subdivision and also with regard to the specific authority of each office and agency. Yost made his comments following statements by the Cuyahoga County Executive that county officials would disregard a formal directive issued Aug. 22 by the Secretary of State, the state’s chief elections law official, to all county boards of elections. Yost said it would be a red flag for one county authority to do what another county authority had been prohibited from doing.
“The public expects that tax dollars will be spent on matters authorized by law,” Yost said. “To prevent disparities among voters across the state, the directive prohibits unsolicited mailings by county boards of elections. If the county boards can’t go through the front door, it’s not appropriate for other county officials to go through the back door.”
Yost said the Ohio Supreme Court has made clear that equal treatment of voters throughout the state is a primary concern of state elections law.
“This looks for all the world like a deliberate usurpation of the authority of Ohio’s chief elections officer,” Yost said. “Units of government and elected officials both have a special responsibility to show respect and deference to each other’s legitimate authority.”
Yost said uniform rules, consistently applied, are essential to elections, and that the authority of the secretary of state and local boards of elections both must be stable and subject to common understanding.
08-29-2011 Letter to Honorable E FitzGerald Cuyahoga County.pdf
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.
Mary Amos Augsburger
Director of Policy and Public Affairs